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tv   [untitled]    January 26, 2016 7:01pm-8:03pm EST

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through this higalian eyes. history is moving in a direction towards openness and freedom. i think what's so interesting about china now, as evan suggested, maybe that's at least for the moment called into question. maybe there's a different direction that they want to move in a different goal. jiayang, you left china when you were young. but you've lived inside -- you're a new yorker but you read chinese, you read chinese newspapers. you've been involved, in fact you i've been a researcher and fact check are for both of these guys up heap and have then started writing for us. i would imagine there will come a time when you might write from china. how do you seeing this now in 2015 and moving forward, what is the next step? how do you look at it in a future oriented way? what's missing, too?
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>> i think the question you posed maybe earlier to jiayang as what does it mane to read western reporting as a native chinese is an interesting one. for me i remember when i was able to read the "the new york times," when i read reports on china, it felt like seeing an x-ray of china. and what i mean by that is the bones all seemed to be in the right place, but what i had in my head with the flesh and the veins, all of that seemed -- it seemed all very accurate. i felt like western reporters must have done a conscientious job. this was in the early mid-'90s but that sense of i want macy that i felt to the country and
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in myself i think the warring allegiances of, i mean, keep in mind i spent first and second grade in china and was exceptionally slow as an english learner. so was very much, you know -- still felt very much nobody could truly -- with a child's sense of stubbornness, nobody can understand china the way i do. and i spent, you know, the past, i think, two decades trying to reconcile that very visceral sense of loyalty to this country and that feeling that i get it in a way that no one else does, maybe the way that, you know, a child feels about her mother. >> even though you're here. no, no. i think it's a profound difficulty that any immigrant has, no? >> yes. even though i'm here. so i find myself in this strange position of oftentimes defending
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china to western friends and then defending, you know, western perceptions of china to my chinese friends and feeling like i'm somehow in everybody's bad books but that somehow i'm trying to find -- >> that you're implicated somehow. you feel the same way? >> that's been the story of my life and now beginning to be my daughter's story. >> how does that influence your writing in a way that evan, orville and peter probably cannot? >> yeah. i think it could be a very, you know, fruitful actually that you wrestle with these pains. i used to describe my trips to beijing which is my hometown after i've been in the states for some years that beijing seemed to become like a skin rash for me because every time i
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returns, you know, i feel this horrible itch to scratch it because everything is irritating. and you know, i get into this wild mood swings and i would pick a fight with, you know, my parents, my friends, all this. they all seem to don't understand america. or they -- and i was very consciously not slip into any english phrase because enwould be charged -- >> you would be giving yourself away. >> a sellout. you know, they called it fake foreign devils. but so i had that dual kind of loyalty issue all the time. but i think ultimately that, you know, kind of insider/outsider position and tension also have serve great advantages for writing because you do have that kind of intimacy with the home scene. and because you're outside, you'll also gain some distance to have certain objectivity. you're removed.
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i used to say in order to get over the skin rash, i need to run away and go to america and grow some new skin so i can actually look at what i'm writing in china with a more clear eye. >> i want to talk about the subject of being wrong, the anxiety of being wrong, either as a diplomat or a journalist. edgar snow famously during the famine that killed up to 30 million people said that, quote, i saw no starving people in china. i was recently on a reporting trip and talking to an american ambassador in all the key places of the arab spring and we knew about the infection, the unemployment but we didn't see this coming in any way. the cia, daniel patrick moynihan thought the cia should have been closed for not being able to see
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the collapse of the soviet union coming. this diplomat was saying one of the problems since 9/11 is that we are hunkered down. we are restricted in certain ways. that may be unique to the middle east and southeast asia but there's also the netflix phenomenon. we bring our western culture with us and we have our comforts. this would not have been the life of harrison salisbury maybe or the chinese equivalent. some people don't get out. we make mistakes about it. what are we missing now? if you had to guess -- when we're thinking about china, all of you, what are we missing and why? what should be our anxiety about knowledge in china now? orville, you want to take a crack? >> oh, boy. you know, i think we miss so many things that the longer i try to parse through china, the
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more i think the history makes a enormous difference and the whole chinese historical difference is -- keeps sort of acting out its deportment. and i think we often, when we understand it, it's a rather simple-minded version of history. and actually, i think, china, too, doesn't do a great job as understanding its own history because they're actually quite frightened of history. >> chinese history in particular? >> yes, chinese history. because it's pretty devastating and there's lots of no-fly zones. but be that as it may -- >> what are the no-fly zones besides the obvious 1989? >> you mentioned the famine where 30 million people died. the whole communist party history is so fraught with problems and brutality and failures that to actually do an honest assessment of it would be devastating. but that's all part of what is in the being of chinese.
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and i think it's very difficult for an american or foreigner to have anything more than a very cursory understanding of that. >> pete? >> what are we missing? >> yeah. >> i think the reporting is too focused on beijing and shanghai. i think we miss a lot from the interior. it's geographically hard for reporters to spend a lot of time there. >> why? >> because they all live in beijing and shanghai. they have to. >> i understand they live in beijing, shanghai. it's not that hard to get around, is it? >> no, it isn't. but it makes life harder if you're going to these places. i did a project that became part of my last book, a place in judgan province and a factory town, i went there over a period of two years. it was more than 100 days on the ground there. and, you know, it's hard to find that kind of time basically. i could do that because i was
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doing a story for "national geographic." i was doing a piece for you guys on it and i was working on my book. that kind of justified this amount of time. but it's -- you know, that's not -- a newspaper person can't do that. you know? and so, i think, also -- i mean, i guess for me personally the thing i like to do is to find a place, instead of necessarily an issue or an event or even a person. because i think sometimes -- you know, i think a lot of methodology. my father is a sociologist and i think journalism is a little weak on. it's a product oriented field. you don't footnote. you don't tell how you got started. and i think you have to be deliberate sometimes in you research structure and your decisions. and like if you're covering, you know, an event, then, of course, that's what you're going to do and sometimes an event can muddy the waters in a place. >> for example? >> it muddies the waters because
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authoritarian country and police are on alert. if something is happening in this place, you can't hang out there for 100 days. in that town i went to, i never got hassled by the police. same thing in egypt. i've been going there for two years now and i can do that because nothing is going on. there are lots of things going on. you notice them. right? >> journalists are addicts of things going on. >> yeah. but i think sometimes you just go to a place that maybe representative. and statistically speaking with the odds are that it is unless you've chosen something extreme. and then see because there are things going on, actually. there's always stuff going on. the factory town i went to, i witnessed personally the tax official shaking down entrepreneurs. i was in the room while they did it. watching how they negotiated the bride. i saw workers applying for jobs. i saw how they use their children to get positions for the whole family. there's lots of stuff you can witness.
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>> in my extensive research at your dinner table in beijing, it seemed that the conversation always gets down to the push and pull of the following, the fact that the beijing government and the entire power structure has willy nilly at tremendous cost to the environment and much else lifted 500 million people out of poverty versus all the ugly features of an authoritarian state. it seemed to me constant discussion, are we doing too much of one, not enough of the other? et cetera, et cetera. i assume this is a dynamic that goes on all the time. is there such a thing as a happy medium? how do you do this -- how do you judge your own performance in terms of what you're revealing and what you're balancing the picture of what's happening when
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it's so vast, so complicated, so populous and possibly some things might even be hidden from you. >> well, i mean, the hardest problem of writing about china is figuring out what are the proportions of the portrait because any portrait has a certain composition of light and dark in china. and you can, depending on where you focus your attention, you can find a story that is uplifting and is a sign of this extraordinary human project of what has occurred over the course of the last 40 years of transforming the country and its human development. or you can shift your attention 20 degrees and get a completely different story, one that is really a concern about the political character of the place and the effect on individual people. and the struggle, i would say, this will ring hollow to people who write a thousand words and have done it in a newspaper. but when you're trying to squeeze into 10,000 words and editors are telling you they've got to trim 100 words and you're like what's the point of doing it. it's now down to 9,900 and i can't convey the complexity.
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i mean that sort of, you know, it's a constant struggle because you're trying to tweak the tolerances of this piece to get that portrait right. i'll give you one example of, you know, a way in which i think we may miss something these days. is that we already sense that we're moving in the american narrative of china and certainly in the political narrative that china's becoming more nationalistic perhaps. you know, you read about the idea that the government is certainly cultivating that spirit. and every couple years with some regularity there will be a protest where people come into the streets and they'll say either down with japan or whatever it is. down with the united states. or something like that. usually not quite that harsh. and the truth is as you discover and this is one of the things you can do on the magazine piece, one of the things i did at the "new yorker," go find those guys, some of the people the principle idea, the
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idol gists, really, of this moment and hang out with them. one of the things you discover is that they're incredibly happy that you called, actually. they really do want to chat. in some ways that's one of the things they want most of all. you go and i spend a lot of time with these guys over the course of the next few years. and what you discovered was very often they could hold two thoughts in their head at the same time even if we were having trouble doing that about china. they could on the one hand be absolutely enraged about a certain feature of american policy and yet at the same time have genuine respect for elements of american life and they could -- these two things could coexist. so one of the guys who i wrote about in that piece, you know, six months later when we were back in touch i said what's going on. he said, well, i'm in germany. he had been really tough on the west but he was now studying in germany, going back to china and starting a company. so i think as we anticipate over the course of the next few years that there will be this underlying momentum in the american political culture to try to create china as an enemy. when you scratch, you discover -- you don't have to scratch very far beneath the surface.
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you'll find that the individual participants, the chinese people swept up in this, have much more interesting and complicated feelings than you'll see when you flip on a cnn report. >> i was thinking as people were doing a form of self-criticism just now that somehow america missed out. the thing that is are happening. a lot of chinese feel that way, that we missed out on the direction of where chi in's going and there's a lot of people who are shocked in china by the certain sort of regressive moves of the moment in the political sphere, for example. but i think we ought to be careful not to fall back to this kind of old bannery of east and west or china's ying and yan. let's not even touch it. i think that's a mirror image of american rising nationalism.
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i think that's a mirror image of rising -- >> totally. >> so it's not that different when you boil it down to -- >> but when you say rising nationalism in america that's derived from the portrait, derived from the republican debate? i'm not kidding around. >> you're not going to say it. >> part of -- okay. let me just say this again. i was watching -- >> slightly disagree or at least put a little pressure on the point. nationalism is formly in power in china. and unless you think barack obama a hypernationalist, which you probably -- >> no, he's not. i think he's the person to blame for not being nationalistic enough. >> correct. >> for being too weak, for example. >> uh-huh. >> and being too soft on muslims and all this. what i'm saying is that, you know, okay. let's bring back the republican debate.
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i was a little troubled by, for example, senator rand paul the other day, tuesday was saying something like, oh, spreading democracy is a utopian project. and that is troubling to me because i think while there is a sobering lesson that america's trying to learn about in the middle east, china is a very different story. and it would be overkill -- i mean, no one, first of all, ever talked about regime change in china. it's just unthinkable. but i think it's very important for the americans to continue to see china as, you know, having lots of overlapping and similar aspirations. both economically and politically. and it's important to keep on paying attention and supporting those few individuals who are maybe marginalized. i mean, they have been marginalized systemically, but
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they are actually still enjoying the simplicity and the support, sometimes silent, sometimes not so violent. >> this is a constant argument -- >> in china. >> that doesn't just apply to china. certainly applied to soviet union and that somehow the dissidents got too much attention. that if you did a, you know, readout of numbers of stories by "new york times" or somebody, they were way too much on name your chinese dissident or whoever it was. how do you two feel about this? go ahead. >> i think, i mean, i definitely see pete's point earlier about focusing on a place. and perhaps social issues that exist a little bit outside of the kind of the political hot spot.
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i think that a lot of times there's so much -- i mean, there's still the sense that china is a bit of an unknown quantity so fear mongering becomes very easy. and, you know, when china exists as the other, then anything that happens, anything phenomenon that happens, you know, china becomes, well, that's so chinese. whether it's like the nationalists or, you know, there's a group of really rich chinese. that's just so specifically chinese, rather than contextualizing it within social and economic terms and seeing that this is just an outgrowth, that, you know, has cultural elements but is not -- you know -- >> unique. >> right. >> those impulses are universal. >> pete, how do you feel about this dissident problem as it were in reporting? >> i mean, i guess, you know, i
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was somebody who didn't write about high profile dissidents. but when i looked at specific places, there are basically three places over the course of my 11 years there that i focused on long periods of time one was where i was in the college, one was a small village outside of beijing and the other was the factory town that i mentioned. fairly different places, you know, geographically and also in the nature of what they were doing. i did see the same dynamic in each place, which was that a lot of the talented people were recruited into the party. certainly that was the case with my students. a lot of the best students became party members. >> best students went to the party. >> many of them, yep. i had this idea before i went there that the smartest kids are going to be dissidents, right? because i had read all the "1989" stuff. but the best kid, you know, mo money who was the class monitor really sharp kid and he was a party member, right? and then the kids, there are also a group of smart kids who didn't want to do that and they kind of went off in a different direction. they had other outlets. and the people who in all of these communities actually who ended up actively resisting were the ones who kind of ran out of
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options or connections. and this was a very striking pattern because i saw it in all three places. you know, one was in '96, '98. another in the village. another in the factory town. it's not necessarily an uplifts story but it had to make sense to me why this place has not been changing. because the talent is either recruited and co-oped or it's finding other outlets and the people that are most likely to resist are often the ones who are somewhat desperate. i remember a really sad scene when i was reporting the factory town they were building a dam and there were people who were protesting -- who were unhappy about the dam and they were showing me, you know, all of these documents and they're kind of making their case in a clumsy way. and at some point they're like, wait a minute, you write for a foreign magazine. and i was like, yeah, i gave you my card. i showed you. like, no, no, this is my goal,
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we're selling the country out. we can't do this. and they just totally flipped out. and i ended up having to tear my paging out of my notebook and give it to them because i felt bad. these people had enough to worry about. i'm like if you don't want me to write this, i'm not going to write it. but it was sad. it was like how are they going to possibly deal with this problem. how are they going to get any traction against the party when they can't even communicate with me a sympathetic journalist? how are they going to wrk this through with the party? and the only guy of this group who sort of became very competent and i was impressed. and he's like who do you write for, let me see your journalist license. i was impressed with this guy. at the end of the conversation i asked him what do you do here, he's like i also sell tiles. so he was selling like he'd hedged his bets. he was selling building materials for the new town they were building because of the dam resettlement. so you saw this kind of thing a lot. >> orville, one of the dynamics
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in journalism of foreign correspondents is how your stuff is played back into the country where you are. in the '80s the way things got played back into communist country was through radio, liberty and all that kind of thing. when you started going to china and publishing in "new yorker," did you have any resonance whatsoever sitting in china that what you published thousands of miles away somehow got back to china at all? and how did that affect your life as a writer? >> well, in the '70s, no. but after the cultural revolution ended, moa died and ping came back into power, everything changed. you have to really look at china as this almost play with different acts. when you get a very different persona expressing itself, and it isn't as if china actually changes. it's just a different aspect. comes to the fore.
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>> how do you mean? >> 1980s were an incredible period of openness. i mean, when people were publishing translations of philosophy, they were looking at new kinds of political structures, laws that would enthrone journalists as having legal rights. i mean, it was incredible. and at that point what one wrote came back with a vengeance. >> in what form? >> well, they had a couple of publications which translated things. which chinese could read them in chinese language. >> hide gar. western philosophers sold like tens of thousands -- >> people are like -- >> he was meant to have them. >> hide ker was a best seller? >> yes. >> wow. >> sadly that ended in 1989. and then it started -- china started to become a little more open for a while. and then, well, it's a long,
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complicated story. but you have to really look at the decade, look at the period to know what the interaction is with the foreign press, whether there's an interest in it. but i think it's important to say that what we see now in china is not the whole story. it's a period. there is a deeply evolved tradition in chinese political philosophy, thinking, activism and it's very democratic. we shouldn't assume just because the party now doesn't really want to hear about it that that is erased. it's just expressing a different side. >> and how are those currents expressed in contemporary life? >> how does -- >> how are those currents expressed and revealed and read about and exchanged in contemporary life? what are its life? >> again on the period now, you hear it in private conversations. you won't see it so much in public media, certainly not on television. those things are quite well controlled.
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and there's a very utilitarian streak, i think, in chinese sort of culture and society. people tend to go where they're not going to get in trouble. so the terms of the game are set. and it sort of determines whereas i think, pete, you said, most people are going to go. if it's in the tile business, good. if going into politics and running for office is going to get you into trouble, no. i mean, it's true in every country. but i think china has a particular version of it. >> evan, that's your experience? >> one of the things i think was specific about this period which orville was described most recently too is it was found as if there were these bright lines as who was political and who was not. there used to be i think clear distinctions. if you made a choice to become political as written about brilliantly in the new yorker, one of my favorite pieces ever, it was about his experience as a dissident, in the period in which i was living there beginning in 2005, it was this very interesting time when people were self-politicizing
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because the technology was changing. all of a sudden you could go online and you could have a voice. you could say something. and you could identify. and you could find people who agreed with you or disagreed with you. you could fight bitterly with them. you could choose your tribe. you could choose your values and express them. and so, that was this, you know, there was a time when i think we used to assume most people had been so poor so recently that they didn't care about politics. and so that was sort of the -- because it was true, actually, for a lot of people it had been so bitterly hard that the idea of concerning yourselves with abstract notions of, you know, values was a distraction people couldn't afford. there was a guy who i wrote about -- actually, the last blog post i wrote about china before coming home was about a street sweeper on the street where we lived who when i met him i sort of thought i understood the contours of his life. you know, he's a guy who wears an orange suit and has a straw hat on. and i started talking to him.
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and he said, you know, people here think i have no culture. they think i have no education. and what they don't know is that i am a poet. and, in fact, i moderate an online sell-on about contemporary chinese poetry. and i went online. actually, i thought he was completely bonkers. >> there he was online. >> there he was online. in fact, he was a celebrity online. he was a figure with authority. and he had an identity that was completely detached from what would be visible to you if you just showed up and looked at him. and in that way this period was this extraordinary time in which people were developing additional lives. and that was kind of thrilling to describe. >> what's it like for you to be sitting here in new york trying to follow china and chineseness and chinese life through the various online -- if you could describe what those mechanisms are, where they're limited,
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where they're exciting, this is such sophisticated group they already know, but tell me what online life like and what you can find out is like on? >> well, i constantly suffer from fear of missing out when i'm reading whether through -- or we chat. you know, it sort of does feel like it almost feels sometimes like an urban -- it feels like an urban metropolis that's building and you don't quite know what, you know, neighborhoods are going to flourish. and i'm always -- i mean, a lot of times it's a subject that, you know, i'm interested in. and i'll search for it and see, you know, what the conversation is like and who is talking about it. and what parameters of that conversation are. and what i find that is
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oftentimes not, you know, it's oftentimes not what i expect. i mean, earlier when you were uz about dissidents, i think for a lot of -- whenever i talk to chinese friends about, you know, just the idea of this dissidents abroad or, you know, what their significance is, i often sense a defensiveness on their part. well, that's what you westerners focus on. that's your -- what you're reporting is on. and that your narrative is that they are always heroes. that because they're not part of the mainstream that they somehow are better than the rest of us. and when i ask them, you know, what concerns them. i mean, their idea of what's relevant to their lives is oftentimes so different than what i see in western media. so online i find, you know, not all threads are fruitful, but
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sometimes when they talk about, you know, a book that's particularly appealing, it's not always the book itself i think is interesting but how they see that book and how they see -- how their vision of china sort of coheres with what they see in that book. >> do you follow online life? >> a lot. >> what do you derive from that? >> there's actually a wild and kind of creative energy if you surf the internet chinese. and there are thousands, there's just like 70,000, you know, silos of, you know, bloggers making all kinds of noises in all directions. when i earlier talk about, you know, beijing feels like a skin rash to me because it irritates when i'm there but the other side is as soon as i leave i come back and i have this itch
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to go back because as soon as, you know, you have a distance and you read and you realize there are all these, you know, possibilities and people walking around with multiple masks, they have multiple lives. like what -- was just saying. >> complex human beings. >> yeah. >> what are you not hearing though? what is being shut out of the internet at this point? in chinese. >> of course, there is an ongoing and intensifying recently censorship of the direct political commentary. it's still going on because a lot of people post with pseudo names. and then they a lot of them moved out of the public space, which is this chinese form of twitter, weeble. to we chat which is more private and harder to track. >> reliably private. >> well, not reliably. if it grows too big it becomes more of a target. and there are thousands of these
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professional deleters sitting in these major portals and that's their job, delete, delete. but i think the dissidents are out in the open and a lot of these chinese will mask themselves as, you know, good citizens. because they know that's too dangerous. >> i see. >> and let's face it. everybody has a self-interest. people want to, you know, show at some point when it's not too risky that they also have a heart. they care about certain issues too. but they do get defensive like jiayang is saying when they get accused of being a coward. but if you read the chinese narrative there's also a lot of talk about this kind of, i don't know, cynical kind of little person who can hide so much
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inside that it becomes a fake person so there's a lot of double talk going on. kind of guilty conscience going on. but, you know, i think we should always remember what orville said earlier. when he went there in the cultural -- he had no clue that something might happen, which did happen majorly. just a few years later. so there is that predictability about a place so vast and so complex and the space is constantly fluid. i mean, it's evolving, so we shouldn't have any, i think, you know, conclusion at this point it's just another chapter. >> this is the moment in evenings such as this always a slightly uncomfortable hinge when you have to have a question. but it's always hard to have the first question. but we do want to have questions from you. and feel free to fire away. are there microphones somewhere? i wasn't -- oh, good. there's a happy volunteer right there.
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excellent. not you. steve. no. not you. right up there. you're next. you're next. i promise. okay. excellent. stand. stand and deliver. >> thank you guys for the great presentation. >> i can't hear you, sir. >> thank you for the great presentation. can you hear me now? >> i can. >> okay. >> i just wanted to hear the compliment twice. [ laughter ] >> my question is, so for those that are native chinese, you know, why did you leave china? and for those born in china, why haven't you gone back to live in china? is china compelling enough for you to go back to live at this stage? >> personal question but okay. >> i did not have a choice on leaving china. i was following my parents.
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in terms of why i haven't, i very much do want to go back to china. but i am still figuring out, you know, a way to do that that can make sense in all arenas of my life at this point. >> huh? was that a question for me, too? >> i think a little bit. >> why do i -- >> you haven't left. maybe you should explain how you do this. >> actually, well, i was born and raised in beijing and came as a student and then returned to live in china. and that was still -- you know, i was still actually there during tiananmetiananmen. and ever since i've been going back and forth. so currently i actually divide my year half and half between china and u.s. so i'm, you know, making a home here and there. >> excellent. this gentleman here.
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you. hang on. wait for the microphone, though it doesn't seem you need it. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. >> i'm kind of curious about this transpacific partnership, which president obama says or he seems to imply that he wants to contain china economically. you know, why not engage china or encourage china to join the tpp? and if so, would china be receptive to joining that so we could have some universal rules of international trade and finance? everybody playing by the same rules. >> okay. evan, why don't you take a crack at it? >> i think actually it's interesting in your question when you said that obama says this is -- actually, i think obama's pretty emphatic about not using that kind of language. he tries to avoid, but that's
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certainly i think there is an impression among some in the u.s.-china relationship that that's the intent of the tpp. actually, if you look at it a slightly different way -- look. let's talk frankly. the tpp was designed to enhance the american relationship with other countries in asia. china was not one of the first countries involved. it's possible china may, in fact, be a member in the future. in the beginning chinese trade and foreign policy officials were really opposed to the idea. they interpreted this as a hostile act. and actually today if you talk to people in beijing, people come to washington they say, you know, we recognize in the long run actually this isn't all that bad. one of the reasons why it's not all that bad is if the united states had not signed a trade deal with asia then the so-called pivot to asia would have really have just been a military exercise. would have been all about security. and so what this does is says, look, let's remind ourselves this is a much broader relationship than just security and we need to be there for all kinds of reasons. so i wouldn't count out the idea that in the future we may find
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ourselves -- china may be in the tpp. >> i'm going to make you run. right over there if you don't mind. this woman in about the -- well, okay. you can go first then. and then this woman here. go ahead. >> yeah. my question is that it's about writing -- >> it's about? >> writing. like, when unlike jiayang, i left china when i was young. and right now i'm trying to write about china, but it turn out there are a lot of cultural subtleties, a lot of things when i'm trying to explain turn out to be very difficult. more important thing is, sometimes i get a feeling that western americans might not even care. so how do you bring the -- make the strangeness relatable to american readers. >> how do you make the strangeness relatable to an american audience, is that the question?
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>> you could say that about the gop debate, too, by the way. >> peter, you want to take a crack at that one? >> i mean, i guess, you know, i don't exactly know how to answer. i think that knowing your subject obviously is important because when it's no longer strange to you then it's a lot easier to convey it in a way that isn't so, you know, outlandish or unfamiliar. but i think that basically writing about china is fundamentally the same as writing about, you know, america. most of us here have written about lots of other subjects. after china i was in colorado and wrote about small towns in colorado. and now i'm in cairo and writing about things in egypt. these are all really different places, but it's fundamentally the same act basically. and it requires the same kind of legwork and the same writing tools. so i think in that sense there's really nothing special about china. i think it's, you know, maybe it's a little harder to penetrate because of knowing language and so on.
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it's the same tools you used to approach any other place are necessary there. >> anybody else? next question was down here. clearly very bad at this. >> thank you. i write for hong kong media. and we discuss how "new yorker" covered china tonight, but i want to mention how "new yorker" changed china. one of the many changes i think it's the wave of nonfiction writing in china. "new yorker" really inspired a lot of chinese writer to write nonfiction. i wonder for the panelists tonight, i don't know how much you read about chinese writer cover china in nonfiction style, and what do you think i'm missing in those pieces? and what make a good writer in nonfiction writing? it's not a question that you can
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answer in a minute or so, but i wonder how you would boil down in one or two points. >> you want to take a crack at that? >> i mean, i think it's true that there are a lot of magazines and periodicals that have sprung up that i think have been very much inspired by "new yorker." i can think of two that i know that sort of narrative form where you are given enough time to sort of make your case. i mean, when i first started for the magazine as josette mentioned, it was quite astounding. it was five consecutive issues. and you really had a chance to kind of feel that you -- it wasn't like evan described as 999 words, i think the challenge in china in writing this way is that, you know, it's that challenge they're confronting in trying to be more innovative in every other field is the controls. at what you feel you can write and what can be published easily.
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and i think there's a -- although china is an immensely creative place in many ways, for writing, because you want to be in public. otherwise you're just writing for, you know, tradition of drawer literature in china but nobody reads it. i think that can be inviting for the kind of writing "new yorker" does, whereas david says you really have to let the writer write. and the editor can help him say what he wants. >> i think there's also a sort of a technical -- there's an admiration for the technical experience of writing this kind of work. i remember, i got a chinese writer friend of mine said do you want to come talk about the fact checking process? and i made jiayang a celebrity in china by the way, i show up had nothing to do with me, it was about "new yorker," i show up and it was standing room only. there were kids sitting in the aisles all of them working journalists, and i was genuinely moved by their interest in fact checking.
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because it's more than a technical process. it is -- really it's an ethic. it's about a belief that there are facts and that you can ascertain them and that they matter and that you should fight hard to document them. and this idea was like for a lot of the reporters working in chinese media, it was an exotic experience. to the point there was a chinese editor -- >> he didn't mean that in a personal way. >> well, i wrote about a chinese editor when he was fact checked when jiayang called him he wrote a piece in the paper called, i was fact checked by the "new yorker." >> i never read that. well, we had some questions from our brothers and sisters on the internet.
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and this is from jonathan in new york. and it says, evan osnos, how is it possible to be as good looking as you are? no, it's not the question. >> it's my wife. she's online. >> that's angelica tang's question. no, no. is it necessary today for a good china correspondent to have chinese language ability and what would happen if they don't? i think that seems to be a straightforward question i think you can all punt right out of the stadium. >> you know, i think even if you do have chinese language, chinese as a language is so sort of profoundly boundless. you still miss an enormous amount because there's classical, there's history. >> can i -- you two should pretend that we're not here. is it really impossible for people to know who aren't native chinese speakers to know chinese efficiently to get around as well as they think they are? >> well, i have two points on this. one, i've -- i mean, i've found having worked with both evan and
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pete who are very fluent in chinese but are, you know, not native speakers that i find that almost be somewhat of an advantage in a sense because they're both so exceptionally scrupulous when it comes to making sure that they have everything right. and sometimes i think, you know, if it were native chinese journalist perhaps, you know, she would think, well, you know, like this is, you know, like i know this terrain. i just sort of i don't need to check that like to the 99th degree. but i find that -- and that's part of what i learned about, you know, being a foreign correspondent because they both are so, you know, aware of being a foreign presence in china i think they go out of their way to make sure that literally
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every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted. >> well, i don't have the native speaker problem, but i do have also experience with jiayang. when she was checking my piece on a formal culture minister and when i looked at the pages jiayang was working on, i saw a field of massacre. because she had this method of checking line by line, blocking them out with red ink and i only had that experience with chinese sensors because they would actually mark it also with red link. >> she's brutal. she's brutal. i've had that experience, too. >> yeah. but even someone like a very high profile writer, you know, was a little bit shocked of getting this, i think, phone call from jiayang all the way from new york just checking on whether he said this or not.
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and i think that's a message for a lot of chinese journalists that's new because when nonfiction started in china in the 1980s, it wasn't even called nonfiction. it's called -- which means literally. and usual i will the -- usually the journalist sitting on top of the olympic mountain and opines on the subject he writes. so it's very opinionated. very subjective. and with very little regard for the facts. so this was a totally different era about, you know, nonfiction writing. i think today, you know, new yorkers probably are leading, you know, kind of a magazine that's, you know, showing example how important fact checking is important. though i think orville's right. that's going to be very hard. to accomplish. >> we sadly have only a couple
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more minutes. i want to -- this is the season of lists. anybody who runs an internet operation knows the best way to get traffic is top ten lists. top ten bagels or films or whatever for the year. but not long ago i read a -- i tried to read chinese history with some volume and read henry kissinger's book on china and discovered that the most important person in the history of china is henry kissinger. and i may or may not be accurate. so what i want selfishly is a recommendation from each of you on a book that i may not have read about china that i can read in translation preferably that's not by one of the distinguished panelists here. doesn't have to be a desert island type of thing. >> oh, please don't start with me. >> peter. >> i don't know if i can remember the title, but there's
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a history book called 1522 or something, year of no significance. you guys probably know? what's the year? or is it the year of no significance? anyway, it's a great history book because he's kind of picking up a random year in the ming and not very important and as you see there's all kinds of things going on and it's a fascinating glimpse. it's a nice way to put history into perspective and to put what we do under perspective too. >> jiayang. >> i'm also blanking on the name of the book. it was memorable, just not its name. i think it was -- it's by a british-chinese author, susan barker. i did read it. >> we've turned this into a quiz show. >> it follows the life of -- it follows a beijing taxi driver, except he's had six lives before
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the present one. and it basically takes you through 1500 years, i think, of chinese history. you know, he was a palace maid who was raped at one point, and he was a young bride who was sold into prostitution. so, you know, in fiction form it was a great way to have taking you through kind of the darknesses in chinese history. >> i'm going to say this book by a french historian diplomat. i think his name is john -- anyway, the title of the book is "immobile empire". >> immobile empire? >> yeah. it's a big fat book. really about this moment in late ching dynasty when british sent
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a ship and ambassador and lord mccartney sent to meet with emperor to present the latest -- >> a famous episode. >> yeah. and then the whole, you know, chapter -- i mean, the whole mission failed and was one of the sticking point was that the british refused lord mccartney refused to kneel down. >> yeah. >> and then the chinese had to explain it to the emperor the british really had a different knee. there's a bone problem. but anyway, full of really colorful and revealing stories, both of the court and -- because the sailors on the ship really saw a lot of alternate lives en route because it was a slow travel. so it was a very revealing, i think, portrait of china in that, you know, critical point which it could have, you know, be read as a missed opportunity. but, you know, it tells a lot about chinese history.
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and the follow-up on that is actually called "restless empire," which, i think -- well, start with the first one. >> okay. >> there's a book that i love called "deep china" edited by an anthropologist. he edited a book of essays by his chinese students who have gone on to be anthropologists and amazing scholars of one kind or another. gets to what pete was mentioning before, they have this rigor in their work, but they also come at it with their chinese sensibility. so you get these extraordinary essays, the things they've chosen to write about. for instance, one of the pieces is how china went from a society in which you bought and sold blood donations, people had to be paid to donate blood to a society in which people choose to donate blood. and those kinds of minor things we would never notice but are profound in their own way. anyway, "deep china" is the name of the book. i think it's terrific. >> orville.
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>> a writer i love who recently passed away was simon pierre -- a belgian, a diplomat. and wrote wonderful, inciteful and often quite dark accounts of china. and he's -- the person he loved most of all in chinese literature was a writer lucian who wrote in the '20s and died in the '30s who i think also is incomparable in the sense that he deeply loved china. but he was deeply dark, sardonic, wry and critical. but i think he had it right. he understood the great state of contradiction in which his country existed. and i think it continues to exist in a great state of contradiction and needs a lucian now. go at it in a similar way. >> well, i really want to thank
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the panelists. you've been extraordinary. thank you very much. and thank you. [ applause ] we have got more from the
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road to the white house later tonight with remarks from former secretary of state hillary clinton. she is in iowa this evening. she will speak at the br miller middle school. that's live tonight at 9:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. c-span's campaign 2016 is taking you on the road to the white house for the iowa caucuses. monday, february 1, live coverage at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span and c-span2. live pre-caucus coverage, taking phone calls, tweets and texts. at 8:00 p.m., a republican caucus and a democratic caucus. see the event live in its entirety. stay with c-span and join in on the conversation on c-span radio and at we have main engine start, four, three, two, one.
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and liftoff. liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission. it cleared the tower. >> every weekend, we feature programs that tell the american story. some of the highlights for this weekend include, saturday morning at 11:15 eastern, state supreme court judge die an keisel discusses dorothy ferebee. on 10:00 p.m. eastern, 30 years ago this week "challenger" exploded shortly after liftoff. watch president reagan's address to the nation about the explosion and a 1986 nasa video report detailing the accident's causes. >> today is a day for mourning and remembering. nancy and i are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle "challenger." we share this with all of the people of our country. this is truly a national loss. >> sunday morning at 10:00 on road to the white house rewind,
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a look at the iowa caucuses, including howard dean's speech featuring the dean scream. and the conference on the history of the iowa caucuses whose speakers include tim craft, who was the iowa caucus' campaign manager for jimmy carter in 1976. two panels with former campaign managers and political reporters. at 8:00, a journalist on his book "under this roof, the white house and the presidency." 21 presidents, 21 rooms, 21 inside stories. he explains how presidents from george washington to barak obama have left their imprint on the mansion. >> here is what i find interesting about the theater. if you look at records of what the presidents have watched over the years, tastes are eclectic and everything and they reflect the tastes of the presidents, the times in which they lived and everything. but there's one movie -- this is
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the quiz section of the evening. there's one movie that resonated with mor presidents than any other. can you guess what that one movie might be? >> for the complete schedule, go to on the next washington journal, former west virginia congressman alam mollohan. after that, our guest is benjamin ginsberg. washington journal is live every morning at 7:00 a.m. eastern. you can join the conversation with your calls and comments on facebook and twitter. this week marks the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle "challenger" explosion. the disaster resulted in the loss of seven crew members, five astronauts and two payload
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specialists. c-span remembers the event with special programming wednesday at 10:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. next, supreme court justice steven bryer about his new book at the brookings institution in washington. the book focuses on globalization and how the supreme court decisions impact other nations. this is an hour and a half.
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good evening, everyone. good evening. thank you for braving the elements. i think it would require a little more bravery tomorrow afternoon around this time. so we timed this event i think perfectly. and particular welcome to justice breyer and to joanna breyer. they are both friends of this institution. justice breyer's connection with the brookings institution goes back a ways. i suspect that most of you noticed when you came into the front entrance of the building that there are some banners celebrating our 100th birthday here at brookings. this is also the 40th anniversary of the publication of justice breyer's first book. which came out under the brookings institution press. later this year by the way, the brookings institution press will be publishing his dissent in the death penalty case. that will be in the fall.


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